4 Tips to Support Your Dog with IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is defined as a disturbance in bowel habits along with abdominal pain, in the absence of known organic pathology.  What this means is that on paper, there is no apparent reason for the symptoms.  There is no bacterial or viral agent present, and biopsies of the intestine generally show no inflammation or cancer.

So, what on earth is going on?  Let’s look at IBS in dogs in a little more detail.


Irritable bowel syndrome is different to inflammatory bowel disease, but both manifest similar symptoms. Both cause diarrhoea, constipation, and abdominal pain. But in cases of IBD you may also notice vomiting.  The difference is when biopsies of the intestine are carried out in cases of IBD, there are inflammatory cells present.

IBS tends to occur in episodes, where IBD is chronic.

As gastro symptoms tend to overlap between conditions, it’s essential to get to the bottom of what your dog may be suffering with.

IBS in Dogs

IBS is a multi-factorial disorder with various contributing factors including:

  • Motility issues
  • Visceral hypersensitivity
  • Altered intestinal microbiota

It is considered that diet and stress exposure play the largest role in this disorder.

Stress and IBS

Study after study indicate that patients with IBS have been noted to exhibit disturbances in the brain-gut axis (GBA).

The GBA is a bidirectional neurohumoral communication system that integrates brain and gastrointestinal functions, such as gut motility, appetite, and weight, and not surprisingly the microbiota plays a critical role.

Disruption of the physiologic symbiotic relationship between the host and the microbiota is called dysbiosis and is regarded a basic factor for initiating and maintaining IBS in many patients.

In a human study, subjects with IBS and who experienced pain had over 5-fold less Bifidobacterium compared to those without pain.

The general school of thought currently, is that in cases of IBS there is an increase in pathogenic bacterial species together with a decrease in probiotic species.

This dysbiotic microbiota is thought to influence the function of the GBA, and subsequently contribute to IBS symptoms.

Diet and IBS

Many symptoms can appear to be triggered by certain foods, but here we need to take an overarching look at the inflammatory state in the body.

If we have an over-zealous, or under-mature immune system, certain foods will be problematic.

A Guide to Inflammation in Pets

Elimination Diets For Dogs

IBS and Stress

IBS is a stress-sensitive disorder and again we can look at the role of the microbiota here.

The gut microbiota appears to influence the development of emotional behaviour, stress and pain modulation systems along with brain neurotransmitter systems.  Additionally, microbial alterations by probiotics and antibiotics exert modulatory effects on some of these functions.

A healthy microbiota plays a critical role in the development of appropriate stress responses. In early life, colonisation with beneficial microorganisms needs to occur to ensure a normal development of the core stress axis.  On the other side of the scale, stress can also influence the composition of the microbiota, increasing pathogenic load significantly.

What’s interesting is that in human studies, adults with IBS report having an insecure emotional attachment style and recall higher rates of recurrent abdominal pain and symptoms of separation anxiety in childhood.  This early life stress could be a contributing factor to their IBS symptoms.

Findings Here

So, how can we support our dog with IBS?

1) Stress Support

Is your dog stressed?  Or have they had early life experiences that were particularly stressful?  It can be helpful to sit down and create a timeline of your dog’s life and identify major events.  Alongside this you can identify when any new symptoms started.

Using Nutrition to Support the Stressed Dog

Can Stress Affect My Dog’s Digestive System

2) Support Your Dog’s GBA Axis

It seems the GBA plays a larger role in IBS symptoms than we originally thought, so take a look at the role it plays.  Thankfully, there are a number of things that we can do to optimise gut health and support our dog’s GBA.

Does My Dog Have a Gut-Brain-Axis?

3) Support Liver Health

There are links between IBS and liver health due to the disruption of the entero-hepatic circulation of bile acids (which is also influenced by the microbiota).

To support liver health we need to reduce exposure to toxins and support detoxification systems as much as possible.

Does My Pet Need To Detox?

4 Superfoods for Liver Health in Dogs

4) Support a Healthy Microbiome

We don’t yet know what the perfect microbiome consists of, but we do know that in cases of IBS we seem to see higher numbers of pathogenic bacteria compared to beneficial.

For this reason it’s important to promote a healthy microbiome.

What Can Cause Gut Dysbiosis?

What Can Help Gut Dysbiosis?

Prebiotics Vs. Probiotics

Sadly, the symptoms of IBS overlap with many other gastro symptoms, so it’s important to establish what is truly going on for your dog.  That said, these 4 tips are great to support digestive health in dogs, no matter what you are facing.

If your dog is suffering with their digestive health and you would like some support, then please check out our services to see how we can help.

Thanks for reading,

MPN Team ‍

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